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Simple couscous salad recipes

What is couscous?

There are two different, though related, meanings for the word couscous.

First of all, it is a foodstuff that is made from semolina, which in turn is made from wheat. The semolina is dampened then rolled into small granules. These granules can be various sizes but most often they are a little larger than pin heads when dried. They swell considerably after steaming. Couscous is a staple in North Africa and is a good substitute for rice or pasta.

Second, the word is an all-encompassing term for a dish consisting of the semolina base which is served with a stew of meat or vegetables.

Couscous salad in a bowl

Couscous salad in a bowl

A couscous salad is very simple

I was late to discover the joys of couscous. I thought it was exotic and probably difficult to prepare but then came the day when I offered to host a farewell party for a friend. I had to rustle up dishes to suit a large number of people who would all too soon be arriving for a summer meal, and I wanted to have something to suit every taste.

I decided to give a couscous salad a try. There is nothing like jumping in at the deep end!

It was a success from every point of view: quick and easy to put together, everyone enjoyed it especially the guest of honour, and even those who said they previous didn't really like couscous. There was nothing left over!

Table of Contents

Couscous on the Side  (20 in x 16 in) (Photographic Print) from

Couscous on the Side (20 in x 16 in) (Photographic Print) from

Preparing the couscous base

Preparing couscous for a salad is simplicity itself. It takes no skill, just follow the instructions.

Image from

Prep timeReady inYields

10 min

10 min



  • 10 oz/ 275 g medium couscous
  • 18 fl oz/2 and a quarter cups/500 ml boiling water or stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Take a large heatproof bowl, considerably larger than the amount of couscous you use.
  2. Pour over the boiling water or, better still I think, stock.
  3. Stir quickly but thoroughly so that all the grains are coated.
  4. Leave to absorb the liquid.
  5. When the liquid is all absorbed, add salt and pepper if you think it's necessary, then fluff the couscous with a fork.
  6. That is all there is to it! Truly! It couldn't be more easy.

Variations on the theme

  • Add a bay leaf, freshly ground pepper, and a tablespoon or so of oil to the stock and bring to the boil. Remove the bay leaf and pour the mixture over the couscous as before.
  • Add a handful of chopped herbs: parsley, coriander (cilantro), chives, to taste. Roughly torn basil is great.

This plain and simple couscous can be used as an accompaniment either while still hot or after it has been left to cool. Better still, though, use it as the basis for another recipe.

Couscous salad with pine nuts and raisins

This was my first attempt at a couscous salad and has become a staple in our family. You don't have to keep to the recipe. You can add anything you happen like or have to hand, such as quartered cherry tomatoes.

Pine nuts being toasted in a frying pan

Pine nuts being toasted in a frying pan

Prep timeReady inYields

10 min

10 min


Scroll to Continue


  • Basic couscous recipe prepared as above
  • 1 oz/30g pine nuts
  • handful chopped spring onions or chives
  • 3 oz/75 g raisins or sultanas
  • handful finely chopped fresh parsley


  1. While the couscous is absorbing the stock, toast the pine nuts in a dry pan over a medium heat. Watch very carefully because they very quickly change from toasting nicely to being burnt.
  2. Chop the spring onions or chives.
  3. Chop the parsley.
  4. I like to add the raisins or sultanas while the couscous is cooling so that they absorb some of the moisture and plump up.
  5. About 5 minutes later when you feel the couscous is cool enough not to "cook" the herbs, you can add all the rest of the ingredients.
  6. The couscous with added raisins can be prepared in advance but I prefer to add the rest of the ingredients about an hour before serving.

Couscous salad with pine nuts (spicy version) - For a little extra bite

As with many couscous recipes, this one can be served as a main course for 4, or as a side dish accompanying something else. Depending on the spices you use, it can have quite a kick.

Harissa is a Tunisian mixture of spices so its heat is a little unpredictable and depends on the particular blend. The measurement of 2 teaspoons is for guidance only. Add enough to suit your own taste.


You could add about 4 oz/100 g of a firm cheese, cubed, to make it an altogether more substantial dish which would be perfect for a main course.

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

10 min

5 min

15 min





  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tsp each of hot paprika and ground cumin and ground coriander
  • OR 2 tsp harissa
  • chicken stock
  • 10 oz/ 275 g medium couscous
  • 1 oz/ 30g pine nuts
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbs finely chopped parsley


  1. Fry the chopped onion gently in the oil until it softens.
  2. Add the spices.
  3. Continue to cook for a minute while stirring.
  4. Add the stock and bring to the boil.
  5. Place the couscous in a large heatproof bowl and cover with the stock.
  6. Leave it to absorb the liquid.
  7. While waiting for the liquid to be absorbed, place the pine nuts in a dry pan and toast gently, watching carefully that they don't burn.
  8. After the couscous has absorbed the liquid, fluff it up with a fork.
  9. When the couscous is cool, mix in the toasted pine nuts with salt, pepper and parsley to taste.

Grilled vegetable couscous

This makes a wonderfully tasty main course. If you are careful which cheese you use, it would be suitable for vegetarians. For vegans you can substitute one of the increasing number of non-dairy cheeses, or leave it out altogether - it's just as tasty.

Mixed bell peppers

Mixed bell peppers

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

15 min

30 min

45 min



  • 1 large/2 medium zucchini/courgettes
  • 1 eggplant/aubergine
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 bulb of fennel
  • 4 or 5 medium tomatoes (halved & deseeded)
  • 2 -3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 -3 tablespoons olive oil or other good oil
  • couscous prepared to the basic recipe (10 oz/275 g)
  • 4 oz/110g goats' cheese (or feta or haloumi)
  • handful of basil leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon


  1. First cut the aubergine and courgettes into thick slices or chunks
  2. Sprinkle with salt
  3. Place in a sieve or colander to drain for an hour or so. You could do it the night before.
  4. Meanwhile chop the remainder of the vegetables. If you don't like fennel, replace with a yellow bell pepper.
  5. Turn on the oven to 475 F/240 C
  6. Prepare the couscous basic recipe.
  7. Rinse, drain and dry the aubergine and courgettes.
  8. Place all the vegetables on an oiled baking tray
  9. Drizzle on a little more oil and place in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes or so until the vegetables look browned.
  10. Remove from oven and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Cut the cheese into small cubes half inch max, or 1 cm.
  12. Grate the zest from the lemon and squeeze the juice.
  13. Gently mix the roasted vegetables, cheese, torn basil leaves, lemon zest and juice through the couscous.
  14. When cool, serve with salad leaves and a dressing of your choice.

Will you be making a couscous salad soon? - Over to you!

SheilaMilne (author) from Kent, UK on June 14, 2015:

Thank you! I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Colin Garrow from Inverbervie, Scotland on June 14, 2015:

I buy couscous from time to time but I rarely get around to actually suing it. i think the problem has been lack of inspiration, so your recipes will help to get me back on the couscous track. Great Hub, voted up.

Paula Hite from Virginia on June 16, 2014:

Thanks for all the tips! I shared your lens on our G+ page today - come and check it out!

Takkhis on May 31, 2014:

I had never tasted it before, yes now I want to! Thank you.

John Tannahill from Somewhere in England on April 19, 2013:

I never could understand why some people don't like couscous. As you say, it's easy, versatile and delicious. I will try your salad recipe soon. Thanks.

poutine on September 17, 2012:

I have never tried couscous before....maybe it's time.

whats4dinner on August 23, 2012:

These recipes sound delicious.

orange3 lm on June 29, 2012:

Yum! Your recipes sound delicious :)

Mary from Chicago area on June 28, 2012:

the salad recipes are perfect for summer -- nice work!

sherioz on June 24, 2012:

We eat a lot of couscous over here (Israel). I just love it with pine nuts. I love anything with pine nuts.

Kristen from Wisconsin on June 19, 2012:

Thanks for the great couscous salad ideas! I've just discovered this food, myself. I found that I love it! Great lens.

bilafond lm on June 15, 2012:

Yes I will be making Couscous salad soon. Thanks for giving variety of recipes

Mercedes Flores on June 04, 2012:

I really love that!

UKGhostwriter on June 03, 2012:

Couscous makes great desserts too

Rose Jones on June 01, 2012:

Don't you love couscous? it does taste exotic - only you need to know. Good excuse to get some healthy curry spices in.

belinda342 on May 30, 2012:

I have to admit, I'd never heard of couscous before. Now I'll have to try it!

Marilyn Thompson from Washington State on May 30, 2012:

Love couscous, I'll need to try your grilled vegie recipe

Itaya Lightbourne from Topeka, KS on May 25, 2012:

Love all the veges you added to it! Sounds wonderful.

MyKitchen on May 24, 2012:

I love couscous because it is a neutral starch for any dish and I often make salad with it.

Elyn MacInnis from Shanghai, China on May 22, 2012:

I like couscous and often forget to make it! Thanks for the reminder. You have a lot of great recipes here. Blessed!

SoniaCarew on May 22, 2012:

Yeah, I am making it a lot anyway. But your recipes seem delish! So, they will be appearing on my menu soon.

Einar A on May 21, 2012:

The salad with pine nuts and raisins sounds especially good!

Ninche on May 21, 2012:

I simply love cous cous! Great great lens!

BuckHawkcenter on May 21, 2012:

Delicious sounding recipes. I will definitely be trying these.

MermaidDoc on May 21, 2012:

I love couscous, it's easy to prepare and very tasty. Very nice lens.

prikazen on May 21, 2012:

Couscous is great and nutritious. We eat it at least once a month...

julieannbrady on May 21, 2012:

What is couscous? I always loved to hear its name as it sounded so intriguing. Great to have fast and easy recipes!

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